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BBQ judging in the Heartland


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I have just signed up to take a class in judging given locally by the Kansas City BBQ Society. Has anyone else ever done this? If so, what was your experiences. It sounded like a fun kind of work for me. There are a large number of events that they are associated with. My thinking is that it would be me a reason to visit parts of the middle of America that I have not been to yet.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I have just signed up to take a class in judging given locally by the Kansas City BBQ Society.  Has anyone else ever done this?  If so, what was your experiences.  It sounded like a fun kind of work for me.  There are a large number of events that they are associated with.  My thinking is that it would be me a reason to visit parts of the middle of America that I have not been to yet.

I haven't but we have decided we need to start sending someone from our competition team to the training at least annually, to ensure we know what the judges are being instructed to look for. An article in the KC Star on the day before the Open judging last year (at the Royal) reported that they were dismissing the smoke ring on ribs, for example, as being easily 'faked' and they also somewhat redefined what 'perfectly done' was (again, in the rib category).

And, yes, there is a calendar of all the sanctioned events online. You could do one every weekend, I bet, if you were willing and able.

I should also call attention to a new-ish BBQ event in KC-Metro area...it's held over Memorial Day and this will be the second year. It's called The Great American BBQ and they drew 180 entries to the innaugural event. It's run by some veterans of the Royal and there are some fun 'side' events in tandem with it (e.g. hot air balloon rally).

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I have just signed up to take a class in judging given locally by the Kansas City BBQ Society.  Has anyone else ever done this?  If so, what was your experiences.  It sounded like a fun kind of work for me.  There are a large number of events that they are associated with.  My thinking is that it would be me a reason to visit parts of the middle of America that I have not been to yet.

I haven't but we have decided we need to start sending someone from our competition team to the training at least annually, to ensure we know what the judges are being instructed to look for. An article in the KC Star on the day before the Open judging last year (at the Royal) reported that they were dismissing the smoke ring on ribs, for example, as being easily 'faked' and they also somewhat redefined what 'perfectly done' was (again, in the rib category).

And, yes, there is a calendar of all the sanctioned events online. You could do one every weekend, I bet, if you were willing and able.

I should also call attention to a new-ish BBQ event in KC-Metro area...it's held over Memorial Day and this will be the second year. It's called The Great American BBQ and they drew 180 entries to the innaugural event. It's run by some veterans of the Royal and there are some fun 'side' events in tandem with it (e.g. hot air balloon rally).

Judy,

You'll have to let me know what your team is called! We went to the Lenexa BBQ this year because my boyfriend's co-workers have two teams from their office, and the food was terrible! I kept seeing other people's BBQ that looked better, but wasn't sure how to get an invite to their booths! Guess I need to work harder on looking pathetic! :wink:

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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My team captain and another friend both attended judging classes in the past year, and had very positive experiences. From a competition perspective, it would probably be a good idea for anyone who competes to attend a class since much of it covers the basic protocol of "proper" (i.e.....meat falling off the bone might taste good but scores very poorly) preparation, presentation, etc. Learning the KCBS rules, scoring procedures, etc. sounds like fun too. In my experience, BBQ people are extremely friendly and helpful, so having the opportunity to get to know more of them when you go to judge competitions just can't be a bad thing. You'll be tasting your fair share of terrible food (BEWARE the sausage category), but you'll also be tasting BBQ that eclipses anything you're going to find in a restaurant.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Is it just me being a cynic?

If everyone goes to all the judging classes and learns what the judges want, carried to to the ultimate conclusion, won't everyone create exactlly the same BBQ?

To paraphrase an old M. Twain saying: it's differences in BBQ that makes a horse race.

Why not make BBQ so good that it changes the judges' minds as to what great BBQ is, rather than trying to make your BBQ adjust to the judges?

I'm sure you will win less trophies this way, but we don't eat trophies.

I would love to see a BBQ gathering that had no judging; just everyone making BBQ and sharing the food and the techniques of how they cooked there's. And if the good ole boys with the $50,000 rigs don't show up because there's no 6 ft trophies; then it's is there loss.

"the only thing we knew for sure about henry porter was that his name wasn't henry porter" : bob

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I definitely don't think it's cynical to question the methods or the need for judging classes, the question of cooking what you think is good bbq vs. cooking for the judges is constantly debated. In my opinion, if a contest is going to have people judging it I'd rather have it done by people who have attended a class on their own volition vs. people who are recruited on the spot at contests when there aren't enough judges. As long as there are KCBS sanctioned events, people definitely need to what the rules are, and the focus of the class is less about telling them what good bbq is and more about letting them know basic protocols of behavior at the judging table (things like pooling/puddling of sauces disqualifies an entry because the contestant could be trying to unfairly identify themselves as the chef). You've got new judges who probably think that grilling a hot dog qualifies as "bbq" and new cooks who don't know you can be shot on sight for boiling ribs ::biggrin::, so I think classes can be a good way to bridge the gap to the world of competition bbq. As far as everyone ultimately creating the exact same BBQ, I think the "taste" category will always remain subjective enough to keep flavors pretty diverse. There will always be veteran judges who influence newer people into their way of thinking re: sauce or no sauce on ribs at turn-in, thigh vs. breast being the best representation of chicken, etc. However, the top money winners are still always very different in their preparation, and depending on who judges their meat from competition to competition makes a big difference too…..the pulled pork that won them $500 last week gets them last place this week because they happened to get a majority of judges at the table who prefer sliced pork.

In a perfect world, I agree that BBQ gatherings with no judges would be optimum, but competition bbq is big business and there are dozens of teams who spend half the year competing at every single event (one restaurant here in KC, Smokin' Guns, is closed on the weekend to accommodate the contest schedule). And to their credit, it's the people who put their life into it who end up getting the majority of the prize money. My teammates and I have talked about that fact for years, and have come to the conclusion that the people who win consistently really do just make the kind of bbq that anyone would consider great. When you take things like the stringent presentation rules and the luck of the draw when it comes to who is going to judge your food into consideration, I may be naïve but I think those things alone rule out any kind of conspiracy that keeps a handful of people in the money. In my experience, the contests are fiercely competitive, yet at the same time there is an abundance of recipe and technique sharing. It's a real community where everybody knows everybody, and most cooks will share 95%-99% of their "secrets" with you…keeping what I think of as their superstitious "good luck charm" techniques to themselves.

I do have to admit, the big Sprint takeover of the American Royal last year scared the living hell out of me. And after reports of security guards going overboard keeping partyers in check, as well as the CEO who knew nothing about BBQ presiding over the awards ceremony and pissing off a room full of cooks, my fears were confirmed. If anybody can turn a huge hometown celebration of bbq into nothing but a chance at a fat, corporate sponsored paycheck, I have faith that Sprint can do it.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Is it just me being a cynic?

No! Not you! Say it ain't so! :shock:

If everyone goes to all the judging classes and learns what the judges want, carried to to the ultimate conclusion, won't everyone create exactlly the same BBQ?

Already happening...it's called Famous Dave's.

I'm sure you will win less trophies this way, but we don't eat trophies.

You're just saying that because you don't have any trophies. :raz:

I would love to see a BBQ gathering that had no judging; just everyone making BBQ and sharing the food and the techniques of how they cooked there's.

Come to the 2nd Annual Puschek next fall. That's what it's all about...a Weber is the fanciest rig you'll see and except for the inevitable trash talking, no competition involved (except maybe quantity consumed and it's unofficial). And, please, it's "theirs" (possessive).

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I definitely don't think it's cynical to question the methods or the need for judging classes, the question of cooking what you think is good bbq vs. cooking for the judges is constantly debated.  In my opinion, if a contest is going to have people judging it I'd rather have it done by people who have attended a class on their own volition vs. people who are recruited on the spot at contests when there aren't enough judges.  As long as there are KCBS sanctioned events, people definitely need to what the rules are, and the focus of the class is less about telling them what good bbq is and more about letting them know basic protocols of behavior at the judging table (things like pooling/puddling of sauces disqualifies an entry because the contestant could be trying to unfairly identify themselves as the chef). 

I agree, Z. It's frustrating enough to know just how much the 'luck of the draw' has to do with winning and losing, even *with* a definite set of rules and guidelines. At least you know what you're trying to achieve, basically, in terms of doneness and appearance and the taste factor is completely up to you. And if you don't think it's a crap shoot, talk to some of the past winners who, as you rightly pointed out, may go for years without winning, get on a hot-streak and win everything in sight and, just as quickly and inexplicably go cold again, without changing anything about their technique. Those who do it professionally are a different breed entirely; the rest of us, it's more about the trip than the destination and, if we place well or at least improve a little from time to time, we'll keep coming back.

And have you ever heard the expression about biting the hand that feeds you? :wink:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Re: "a different breed entirely".........good point. As unforgivingly nit-picky as I can be with BBQ, I can't relate to the level where the pro's must dwell on a permanent basis. I have my cook times, temps, rub recipes and wood combos down pat for my personal version of bbq where, on a good day, I don't drive friends and family crazy with apologies over minute details that I think RUINED the meat. To be one of the folks that spend year after year perfecting their craft and taking it on the road for THAT many people to scrutinize? I can't relate, but it is easy to see where things like whether to score or totally remove the rib membrane, whether finishing meat by wrapping it in foil is acceptable, sauce vs. no sauce (and what kind in a world where gloppy sweet KC Masterpiece rules all?), etc. can all become personal theologies that represent "good" bbq for you... At what point do you cross the line and become one of the people who cooks six whole briskets in the hopes of getting a few perfect slices to turn in? I have no idea, I'm just there to pig out and drink way too much.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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(i.e.....meat falling off the bone might taste good but scores very poorly)

But....it doesn't "taste good." Even if the flavor is good, having a big mouthful of mush that's supposed to be meat isn't tasty to me.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'm no fan of overcooked ribs either. "Falling off the bone" is one of those annoying things you hear so much from people, on commercials, etc. In fact there's some new countertop slow roaster being advertised on tv right now and they actually say something along the lines of "perfectly done ribs, meat just falling off the bone". For me it's not QUITE as brain implodingly annoying as people using grilling and bbq'ing synonymously, but it's definitely in the top five.

God, that reminds me of a conversation I had with someone last year who could not be converted from their belief that BBQ is what you did to "heavier" meats like hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs, but "GRILLING" is what you do to things like salmon and chicken breast because they are lighter and healthier. They just couldn't be talked out of it.......... okay, I need to stop thinking about this...they just had a different point of view is all.....the weekend is a couple of hours away.....happy places.... :smile:

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Forgot to add......another thing I've found that contributes to an unpleasant mushiness in ribs is the addition of injected salt water. Unless someplace is having a really, really great sale on babybacks I steer clear of anything with that additional 12% (think it's usually 12) saline solution. Not totally sure why they do that, although brined meat does dummy-proof cooking it to some extent. I just hate having to change my rub recipe to account for the extra salt, and then there's the issue of paying good money for the salt water that adds to the overall weight of the meat. And of course, what I've found to be a mushy texture once it's cooked.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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For me it's not QUITE as brain implodingly annoying as people using grilling and bbq'ing synonymously, but it's definitely in the top five.

God, that reminds me of a conversation I had with someone last year who could not be converted from their belief that BBQ is what you did to "heavier" meats like hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs, but "GRILLING" is what you do to things like salmon and chicken breast because they are lighter and healthier.  They just couldn't be talked out of it.......... okay, I need to stop thinking about this...they just had a different point of view is all.....the weekend is a couple of hours away.....happy places.... :smile:

So... what are your definitions?

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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I think that the simplest undisputed definitions/differences for these terms (anybody feel free to add here of course) are:

BBQ= low and slow, indirect heat, smoke is always incorporated into the process

Grilling= high, direct heat for a short period of time

My personal rule of thumb is even simpler.....if it took you less than an hour to cook it, you're not bbq'ing. There are, of course, exceptions to this. For example, you can "BBQ" salmon in your smoker in less than an hour. But for the most part this definition works.

Granted, this can all be viewed as pretty nit-picky to most people who don't do BBQ. And it's just easier to say, "hey, come over to my backyard bbq" when all you're really talking about are steaks and burgers. However, when you're at a competition and you're talking to cooks, or you're asking questions on an online forum dedicated to bbq, it's always a good thing to know there is a BIIIIGGG difference between the two terms.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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"hey, come over to my backyard bbq"

What time? Can I bring anything?

If you want really annoying...try people who think barbecue is accomplished by opening a bottle of sauce and dumping it onto a piece of meat before placing it in the oven. And yes, there are such people. I may even be remotely related to some of them but it was never proven. :wink:

[Off-topic note: I see that I was the only one who did the honest thing and took the afternoon off. Clearly at least several others of you should have, judging from your apparent productivity. I walked to the library (checked out McGee, so I can really geek out on food facts) and it was so nice I returned to my office, collected my laptop and came home to read on the deck and let the cats have some fresh air. January 28, 70 degrees...what global warming?]

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Z. I've just reread thru this thread and as i did I thought I should rephrase my M. Twain paraphrase to: it's differences in people, times and situations; that make BBQ.

Here is my current take on KC BBQ:

Being a 'coot' I was around KC BBQ when it was defined by Gates, Bryant, Boyd, Rodsade and Quicks. Each one a dive in a odd part of town. And none of them, at that time, relocated to Overland Park.

I left town and the next thing I know there is a KC BBQ Society, Doc R. Davis is producing some glop called KC Masterpiece, and the Amer. Royal BBQ has banned Queing in old stoves, loud bands, and excessive drinking. They have gentrified and codified BBQ into a Johnson-County state of mind.

To me, they have fallen at the alter of Pat Boone singing Tutti Frutti (when everyone knows that the only true Tutti Frutti is sung by Little Richard).

But people, times and situations change. So if BBQ in KC has evolved, more power to it. But if it takes a $50,000 rig to create 10 briskets, of which, only one is worth presenting to a judge; then I say give me a wonderbread, brisket sandwich with two thumb holes in it from Bryants and let me be the Judge.

"the only thing we knew for sure about henry porter was that his name wasn't henry porter" : bob

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I left town and the next thing I know there is a KC BBQ Society, Doc R. Davis is producing some glop called KC Masterpiece, and the Amer. Royal BBQ has banned Queing in old stoves, loud bands, and excessive drinking.  They have gentrified and codified BBQ into a Johnson-County state of mind.

Oh come on! The best is yet to come! There's the "Race for the Royal", the 5K run that will weave its way through all of the competitor's spaces on Saturday morning next year (winning team gets matching cell phones and a month's worth of anytime minutes), the new "Low Fat/High Fiber" food category, entertainment by none other than "Muskrat Luv"....the Captain and Tenille cover band that specializes in Elevator Muzak versions of their greatest hits, intermittent sniper positions along the 12th street bridge (courtesty of the Dept. of Homeland Security) for your safety, the fireworks show will consist of a sparkler and snake demonstration to keep noise down, and LAST BUT NOT LEAST.......$2 of the new $25 single day entrance fee will be dedicated to widening all of the parking spaces in the area to accomodate the new breed of mega-SUV's and armored personnel carriers that will truck otherwise skittish suburbanites to "that part of town".

Wow, if any one of those things didn't sound like it could actually come true.....I'd put a smiley face here!

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Oh come on!  The best is yet to come!  There's the "Race for the Royal", the 5K run that will weave its way through all of the competitor's spaces on Saturday morning next year (winning team gets matching cell phones and a month's worth of anytime minutes), the new "Low Fat/High Fiber" food category, entertainment by none other than "Muskrat Luv"....the Captain and Tenille cover band that specializes in Elevator Muzak versions of their greatest hits, intermittent sniper positions along the 12th street bridge (courtesty of the Dept. of Homeland Security) for your safety, the fireworks show will consist of a sparkler and snake demonstration to keep noise down, and LAST BUT NOT LEAST.......$2 of the new $25 single day entrance fee will be dedicated to widening all of the parking spaces in the area to accomodate the new breed of mega-SUV's and armored personnel carriers that will truck otherwise skittish suburbanites to "that part of town".

Wow, if any one of those things didn't sound like it could actually come true.....I'd put a smiley face here!

Amen to that...I'm sure it's just a matter of time. Note to Osnav the Coot: I don't think cooking in old stoves is against the rules, it's just not as prevalent as it was in the mesozoic era (a/k/a your early adulthood). :wink:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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